When I first came to the yoga world in 2004 there were already different traditions and studios vying for the coveted title of "Real Yoga" and they all had their own ideas on what that meant.
Nothing much has changed since then, and I actually think that the "real yoga" competition has been going on for many thousands of years in different forms. But I remember getting lost in the noise. I was so amazed at how good I felt when I practiced that I was ready to believe almost anything that my teachers would say. I transferred to my teachers the hope that they knew something I did not and could help me get whatever it was I wanted. And, to be frank, the last thing I wanted to hear was "what do you think?" I wanted someone to tell me all about "real yoga" so I could get my gold OM symbol sticker for my third eye, declare myself "Real Yogi", and get whatever it was I wanted.
So I tried a lot of stuff to get it, to get the real yoga, to get enlightened, or whatever. I tried going to kirtans, which were cool in a certain sense, but never really resonated with me. I tried being a vegan for about 6 months, put on my happy yoga smile, and tried to pretend I wasn't so hungry I was considering eating the kirtan dude's drum. I went to workshops to do poses I was no way near ready to do. Then came the green powders at the bargain price of $8500 per jar. And after that I bought goji berries by the truckload and ate them saying to myself "they're almost like candy." Which, by the way. . .
No they're not.
Not even close.
Nothing can replace Sour Patch Kids.
I tried a lot. What I began to understand is that the kirtans, complex poses, and the foods, work for some people and not for others. And, lets be honest the modern food fads are a privileged, first-world addendum to the yoga subculture. I don't know of any classical texts that tell you to double fist goji berries while sipping green juice. But most importantly I lost sight of what worked for me. What was my genuine truth?
When we get to these questions, we're in a pickle, because now we have to choose for ourselves. Now we can no longer say, "because so and so told me" or, "it says so in this book." Now we need to look into ourselves and get resonant with our own truth. What activities do I enjoy? How do I want to spend my time? What foods work well for my body? What are my beliefs?
And then, we must stay true to them. After doing this process for myself over the course of many years, I have discovered what is more resonant and true to myself. I'm not really a chanting guy, I can roll with it when necessary and enjoy it in the right context, but it's not really my thing. After I was vegan for a while and became weak, tired, underweight, and slightly anemic I realized that my body does need animal protein. Does that mean this is true for everyone? No, it's true for my constitution. Does it mean people don't or shouldn't have strong and valid convictions about consuming animal products? Not at all, it's simply my truth. It's what works for my health and my body.
These are my resonant truths, at least in the context I discussed. So this is where I would ask, what is true for you? What do you think? What are your beliefs? What makes you feel the best? What things do you like to do? What resonates with you? What makes you feel balanced, grounded, and whole?
What do YOU think? Don't recite me a sutra, don't tell me what your teacher said, don't regurgitate a quote from an inspirational Facebook picture. What do you think? Yoga is never defining our thought process for us, yoga is teaching us how to think clearly for ourselves. Yoga is teaching us how to see the world clearly for ourselves. Yoga is telling us to step up and take some responsibility for creating and defining an opinion and perspective of our own.
And in the end, what we are all really looking for has nothing to do with food, kirtans, or yoga poses. Our consciousness, the awareness that we are, that we are looking for whether we realize it or not, that awareness IS regardless of what we do. We are always that. We are limitless consciousness squeezed into the specific perspective of human life for a blink in eternity. We can never cease to be that. If we can live these blinks we call our lives causing less suffering for others and ourselves and also be true to ourselves, I think we're doing pretty well. We already are what we are looking for; we can calm down and stop looking for it outside ourselves. It's not there. Let go of any ideas of "real yoga." Go inside and find what works for you, what resonates in your own consciousness, and live true to that. There is no more powerful and authentic way to live your life.